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10 Tips on How to Spot and Avoid Internet Scams

• Written by Josh

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Updated 10/12/2019

As the Christmas months roll around once again, many of us will be avoiding the rush in our local towns, and instead opting to buy gifts online. For this reason, we thought it might be time to revisit an important topic; scams on the internet, and more importantly how to avoid them!

Whilst many of the older generation are pretty tech-savvy nowadays, there are still scams online that catch the best of us out. Those creating these scams are becoming smarter with how they approach their victims, so it's important to make sure you're being as safe as possible when browsing the web.

Although the internet has become a great place for older people, it can also be very dangerous. Criminals and hackers target internet users around the world on a daily basis, and are targeting those who aren't 100% confident whilst online.

Internet scams are on the rise all over the world. Studies indicate that around $1.5 trillion is being made from cybercrimes, whilst social media contributes to over $3.25 billion of this. Not numbers to be sniffed at!

Internet scams are becoming more advanced as the technology improves, making it even harder to spot when something isn't legit. Today's article will look at some of the most common internet scams, before giving you some tips on how to spot and avoid them.

For a more general outlook on ways of avoiding crime, please see our in-depth article.

Most Common Internet Scams

Money Saving Expert defines scams as being:

Fraudulent schemes that dupe people into parting with their personal details and/or cash, but they're no longer confined to shady door-to-door salesmen or dodgy second-hand car dealers."

Scammers now target their victims through emails, online banking, online transactions and social media pages. Some of the most common examples of internet scams include:

  • Phishing Emails - Designed to trick people into clicking onto links and opening image attachments. They look like legit emails from actual companies, however once you click on something a malware virus will strike and steal personal details.
  • Online Shopping - Fake websites set-up simply to steal your money and banking details. You will never receive your items, and your bank accounts may be emptied.
  • Hacking - When an individual, or gang, breaks into a computer system that they are not authorised to use. Commonly it is business that are targeted, however social media accounts and email accounts are also targeted.
  • Identity Theft - Criminals may steal all of your personal information, including your ID, before going on a spending spree. They may take out loans, take out multiple contracts and use your ID to commit further crimes.

Here are some tips on how to spot and avoid becoming a victim of these internet scams.

Never Open a Link or Attachment that you're Unsure about

As we've already mentioned, phishing emails are designed to look like the real deal. It is hoped that you will think they are legit, opening their attachments and clicking on their links in the process.

You need to be really careful when looking at these emails. If you are even 1% unsure about the authenticity of the email, you should close it and avoid clicking on any of the links. Look out for bad grammar and spelling mistakes, and remember that your bank would never email you asking for your pin or password.

 

Don't fall for Social Media 'Deals'

If you're a fan of social media, in particular Facebook, then you will have seen plenty of 'special deals' being advertised through their home pages. Examples include vouchers for high street brands or free flights through an airline.

These deals sound amazing, almost too good to be true. Well, that's because they are too good to be true. This is just another one of those internet scams set-up to trick you into sharing your private information.

You should never take advantage of these 'special deals' as you could end up losing a lot of money.

Facebook has gotten a little better at clamping down on this recently, but if you're unsure about the legitimacy of a page... avoid it.

Watch out for 'HMRC'

Some of the most common phishing scams come from people pretending to be from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The common email subject will tell you that you are due a tax rebate and that you can 'click here' to claim.

Of course, in reality, this will lead you to a dodgy website or install malware onto your computer. HMRC will never email or text you with this type of information and you should delete these emails immediately.

You should also report the emails to HMRC so that they can act.

Use Software to Create and Store your Passwords

Creating a password is one of the most important things that you will do on your computer. A password needs to be difficult for people to guess and something that you can remember. Fortunetly this process has been made easier due to password software companies.

Software such as Dashlane will generate randomised passwords for you, and then store them all for you behind one master password. When you visit a website which requires a password, Dashlane will then pop-up and sign you in automatically.

The passwords generated are so random that hackers will struggle to break into your accounts.

Install Antivirus

Malware viruses can destroy your computer and steal all of your private information. Antivirus software can fight back against intruders and keep your computer safe. Some software is free, although these editions won't offer as much protection as a paid service.

Once your Antivirus is installed you need to make sure that you do a computer a scan at least once a week. You should also update your Antivirus software as soon as an update is available to you.

Look out for Poor Grammar

Grammar and spelling issues is a clear sign that something isn't right about the website or email that you're reading. Professional companies will spend plenty of time putting together their web pages and email templates.

Phishing emails and scam website won't take as much time and care on their 'projects'. If the email is a mess, you should avoid any interaction with it. Delete it immediately and warn others about the email you received.

Do your Retailer Research

Online shopping makes your life so much easier, however you need to be vigilante to make sure that you don't get caught out. If an item is too cheap to be true, chances are it isn't. If you haven't heard of a website before you should make the following checks:

  • Ensure that it is a registered company.
  • Check for reviews. Are they positive? Do they sound legit?
  • Always read the website's terms and conditions.
  • Make sure that the site is secure. You should look out for a padlock logo to the right of the web address in your internet browser.
  • Ask friends and family to see if they have dealt with or heard anything about the company.

If you're unsure about the website you're using, leave it and visit a well-known retailer instead. It may cost a few pounds more, but in the long run it save you thousands.

Never Share your Pin or Password

Your bank will never email you asking for your pin details, just like companies wouldn't ask you for your password via email. If you receive an email asking for this information, you should delete it immediately - without clicking on any of the links or attachments.

This is a phishing scam, as mentioned earlier, and the criminals behind it are trying to steal your information so that they can access your accounts, steal your money and even your ID. Be safe, don't reply and let your bank know that somebody has tried to trick you.

Keep your Operating System up-to-Date

In order to be as protected as possible from internet scams, it is important that you keep your operating systems up-to-date. Examples of operating systems include Windows and IOS for Apple MAC computers.

By doing so, you are ensuring that everything on your device is working as it should be in order to fight off any malware attacks. The latest version of Windows (10) has frequent updates to ensure that your computer is ready to fight-off internet scams.

Don't Stream from Dodgy Websites

If you find a website which is streaming live sport, which is supposed to be exclusive to Sky Sports for example, chances are that it is not a legit website. Broadband providers and the police are working hard to shut down streaming websites.

There are so many streaming websites out there that will allow you to watch live sport from around the world, as well as all of the latest cinema releases. As soon as you click on these websites however, you will be met with hundreds of pop-ups.

You are also leaving yourself open to viruses being installed onto your PC via these pop-ups. It's best just to head down to a friends house, the pub or to the cinema if you're wanting to watch something. Don't take the risk!

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